Disney’s first CGI feature based on a fairy tale returned the studio to its hallowed beginnings as a spinner of fables about put-upon princesses. From Snow White and Cinderella to Ariel, Beauty, Pocahontas and Mulan, girls were the focal characters who could be expected to come of age, triumph over adversity and, in general, woman up. When Pixar’s John Lasseter took control of Disney’s languishing animation unit, he green-lighted two femme-centric features: 2009′s The Princess and the Frog (a hand-drawn film of spectacular élan and artistry) and this adorable update of the Grimm Brothers’ story of Rapunzel, imprisoned in a high tower by a witch, with the girl’s long hair the witch’s only means of access and egress.
In the new version, directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard, the witch Gothel (voiced and sung by Broadway’s Donna Murphy) discovers that the hair of Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) somehow brings eternal youth, or at least chic middle age, to an old witch. She can swan around as long as her victim stays locked up. Gothel could be many modern American parents who think that confining their teens in enforced preadolescence helps them feel younger too. The character design of Disney veteran Glen Keane frees Rapunzel from visual stereotype and gives her poise and spunk. Oh, there’s a Prince Charming (Zachary Levi), but Tangled, like The Princess and the Frog, is a rallying cry for girl power — and an indication that the studio that created the princess-musical animated feature can still give the format vibrant life.
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